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Saturday, June 09, 2007

First Feature Film on YouTube: 'Four-Eyed Monsters' (and more Saturday news)

- The first (legal) feature film is up on YouTube, all 70 minutes of it. The experiment involves YouTube, the online filmfan community, and `Four-Eyed Monsters' directors (and stars) Susan Buice and Arin Crumley.

Here's how it works -- watching the film is free, but before it plays, you get a one-minute message from Susan and Arin explaining that if you go join sign up for, the site will pay them $1 for every new member they bring in, up to $100,000. Susan and Arin also ask viewers to post any video responses to the film on YouTube, and promise that they'll interact with viewers there for the next week. (Update: film will stay on YouTube for just one week.)

So this is basically a "bounty" business model, with an underwriter (Spout) promising the filmmakers a bounty for new members they can bring in. 'Four-Eyed Monsters,' of course, has already been on the festival circuit, already played theaters, and is already available for purchase as a DVD or a DRM-free digital download.

I'm embedding the film below. This is the first time you'll hear, on YouTube, the words "and now, the feature presentation..." (But probably not the last.)

Here's the official press release.

- The Visual Effects Society is holding its 2007 Festival of Visual Effects in Beverly Hills this weekend. If you can't make it in person, their list of the 50 greatest visual effects films of all time is well worth a look (here it is in PDF form. As is the teaser video with clips from many of the movies. I love the mix of classic films and recent ones...

The Wall Street Journal has a piece about the VES' top 50 list, in which Joe Morganstern writes:

    Special effects don't have to be big to be special. The vast -- and vastly expensive -- motion-capture process behind "Polar Express" (a film wisely omitted from the VES 50/51 list) largely failed to capture emotions, and not just in the case of the glove-puppet-like faces; even the train of the title seemed inert. Yet the fleeting apparition of an almost incandescent train in Steven Spielberg's remake of "War of the Worlds" is a stunning effect, because the train represents escape from fearful danger. In Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter," a film set in a town that has lost its children in a bus accident, the depiction of the bus plunging from a road into an icy river is technically modest, and visually removed; the whole thing is seen in extreme long shot. Yet it's anything but remote. The moment is, in fact, shattering, because we're watching what we're watching, a school bus with its precious cargo slowly sinking beneath a sheet of ice.

    Looking at it another way, the more we bring to special effects, the more special they become. Heavy-duty digital genius wasn't needed for the moment at the end of John Boorman's "Excalibur" when the sword is flung back in the lake and received by a hand which, rising above the waters, submerges once again. For many of us, that image epitomizes the Arthurian legend (and maybe even evokes "Camelot," Richard Harris, Richard Burton, Lerner and Loewe and JFK.) Similarly, the effects in Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" are, by the filmmaker's choice, almost homespun -- a few digital creatures and embellishments, yes, but also puppets, painted sets and a monster who, quite discernibly, is an actor wearing a fantastical costume. Yet the cumulative effect is intense, for all of these excursions from literalism are part of a seamless whole that uses reality as a starting point. The end point, and the whole point, is magic.

- Could Amazon be mulling a purchase of Netflix? looks at the possibility, noting:

    Amazon could potentially address some of Netflix's subscriber-growth troubles by marketing the service to its large user base. It could also seek to improve [Amazon's download service] Unbox by combining it with Netflix's download service—should that model begin gaining significant traction with consumers.

- Another great BizWeek piece asks, How Big Will the iPhone Be?

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